Greetings Steeplechasers. As I begin my term as President, I can’t help but think back to my very first Steeplechaser event. After hearing about the Steeplechasers from Mark Lawrence at my school’s 5k race, I signed up with plans to run the Frederick Half Marathon the following year. I can still remember that cold February morning back in 2015 as I sat in my car questioning my sanity and debating going home or even getting out of my car. Luckily, I made the right decision. I am actually wearing the shirt from my first training program. The training programs have remained an important part of the club. Over the years there have been changes with the coaching staff, as well as the graphic. Thanks to Jared Putman, husband of Coach Megan Putman, for designing our new graphic. It really represents the diversity of running in Frederick County.

I participated in several training programs then I decided to become an RRCA Certified Coach, in order to help lead the training programs. From here I got involved with the Social Committee and became the Chair. Many people don’t believe this, but I was actually quite shy as a child. Becoming a teacher, as well as becoming involved with the Steeplechasers has helped my confidence. In 2019, I decided to become involved in leadership and took on the role of Secretary. I enjoyed this opportunity and decided to remain on the Board, but in a different role, this time as President.

Last year was a challenging time for many of us. In the middle of the Spring Half Marathon Training, we had to completely shut down our group runs. Despite not being able to meet, the coaches did a wonderful job keeping the participants motivated, and they organized the Steeps Social Distancing 13.1 Challenge. Thanks to Chris Dutton, Michele Newton, and Jean Marie Heim for your dedication and creativity. Last year we held the first virtual Women’s 5k Training Group. The wonderful coaches kept the participants engaged, despite not meeting in person. Thanks to Syble Roane, Casii Dodd, and Marti Grib-Kachman for your willingness to adjust and offer a fun-filled and memorable training program. Over the summer, the Board created the Small Group Running Policy, which would allow our fall training programs to take place safely. Thank you to the fall half marathon coaches (Michele Newton and Amanda Berry) and the marathon coaches (Andrea Thompson and Jean Marie Heim) for their hard work and patience, as we continued to adjust the training programs to keep the members safe.

Last year also saw races getting canceled or changed to virtual events. This affected the morale of the group. However, in true Steeplechaser fashion, we didn’t let this get us down. In addition to switching to virtual events, Market Street Mile and Rick’s Run offered different challenges that kept members engaged. Speaking of challenges, several Steeplechasers completed the Yeti Ultra 24-Hour Challenge. Many virtually made their way across Tennessee by completing the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (GVRAT) 1000k. We even had a few members who made it across and back over four months. 

While 2020 was a difficult year, one thing that came out of this pandemic was an opportunity to help and support others. Community service has been a part of the Steeplechasers for many years, as money from our Signature Races go to local charities. As part of my Community Service initiative, I would like to increase community service throughout the year and provide additional opportunities for members to participate. Earth Day takes place in April, so this month’s theme is taking care of the Earth. On Saturday, April 24th you can sign-up to join the Steeplechasers team at Bring a Broom Saturday. This event is sponsored by Downtown Frederick Partnership and is a great way to come together to clean up Frederick. If you can’t make this event, no worries. Another activity that can be done in Downtown Frederick or in your neighborhood is plogging. You might be wondering what plogging might be. It is a combination of jogging and picking up trash. I would love to see members getting out and cleaning up their neighborhoods. Feel free to post pictures to Facebook using #SteepsPlog or email them to me ( Look for more community service opportunities later in the year.

So, here we are in 2021, ready to return to normal. This is going to be a slow-going process, as we want to do it safely, but we are looking forward to the return of some of our events.

The Spring Half Marathon training is going strong. While the news of the Frederick Half Marathon postponement to July was upsetting, the coaches have already started putting together a plan to commemorate the end of the training program. Planning has started for the Women’s 5k training, as well as the fall training programs. In addition to the half marathon and marathon training groups, we are bringing back the 10k training. Our youth program the Spires, led by Coach Trevor James will be kicking off their season on April 13th. As always, the safety of our participants is of utmost importance and plans have been put in place to keep everyone safe. 

We are planning on holding our Signature Races (Summer Solstice 8k, Women’s Distance 5k, Market Street Mile, and Rick’s Run) in person this year with COVID plans in place for each race. The Competition Committee, led by Shannon Matthews and Ruth Taylor, have released the 2021 Grand Prix and Equalizer Series. Many dates haven’t been set yet and changes may be made to the schedule due to COVID. Planning has started for our Low-Key races, including the Independence 5000, Run for the Pie 10k, and Lil’B 5k-ish.

As the weather is changing, we are also planning on having some safe social events. Look for updates on Facebook, as well as in our bi-monthly newsletter. I am looking forward to getting together to see familiar faces and to meet new members.

Stay safe and healthy!

Heidi Novak

FSRC President